Simply the best
Tommy Grimes' dedication to SuperValu in Midleton, Co Cork, have set him apart from the competition and made him a worthy GRAMs 2010 overall winner
14 July 2010
Tommy Grimes, manager of Hurley’s SuperValu in Midleton, Co Cork was this year’s overall GRAM award winner. His loyalty and dedication to the Midleton store for the past 19 years set him apart from the competition. Grimes also came away with the award for symbol group manager for stores over 6,000 sq ft.
The Roscrea native started his retailing career in 1985 when he joined Quinnsworth in Tralee. He worked there for four years progressing from trainee manager to store manager. In 1989 he moved to Dungarvan to take over the management of the SuperValu store in the town. Seeking a new challenge he moved to Hurley’s SuperValu, Midleton in 1991 and has been there ever since. During his tenure the store has won a host of awards including the Independent Retailer of the Year in 2000, Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year 2002 and Supervalu Store of the Year 2005. The store has been the regional winner of the Supervalu Store of the Year in ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08 and 2010 and for the past 19 years it has won the Excellence Ireland Hygiene Award.
According to the judges Colette O’ Connor, managing editor of ShelfLife and Barry Whelan, MD of Excel Recruitment, the standard of participants in this year’s competition was outstanding so great credit it due to Grimes for coming out on top. With his experience in management, he knows more about customers and staff than most others.
Starting from scratch
When Grimes came to work in Hurley’s 19 years ago the place was but a shell. “There was no shelving, no lighting and no front door. It took us two weeks to set up shop and we opened in November 1991. We were trading at about 8,000 sq ft retail. John Hurley gave me the reins of the store fairly quickly. He allowed me to build a team around me.” For the first four or five years Grimes ran the store on his own and then it started to get busier and he took on an assistant manager. Today there are two deputy managers in the store; John Cremin and Richard O’ Sullivan.
The first thing Grimes noticed when he moved to Midleton was that everyone knew everyone. “I liked the personal side of it. I was only working there a month and the customers knew who I was”. Grimes and the storeowner, John Hurley, place a huge emphasis on the community and participating in local events.
Although the store has been through four revamps, the most recent has changed the store entirely. “It took us from a 12,000 sq ft building to 30,000 sq ft – a whole different ballgame. We now have 21,000 sq ft of retail and we feel like we’re still not big enough. We need more space on the shop floor.”
They are currently waiting on a planning decision to add 200 car spaces and if this is accepted it will increase business even further. Speaking of the reason for the most recent revamp he says: “The shop had become very busy and we were trading out of our skins. We were a bit tired and dated and the shop was very cluttered in that when you came in the front door there was fruit and veg there and you had to make a decision straight away to buy. We’ve pushed that down and opened up the front aisle. We’ve also widened the front door and taken a pillar away. Now it’s a bit more relaxed.”
Grimes believes that they weathered the recession by keeping the customer informed about promotions and special offers. “You have to interact with your customers and make sure they are informed. It’s back to selling, the way it used to be. The volumes of stock going out of the shop at the moment are huge because of the special offers. We have an eight metre wall of special offers and three coffin fridges.”
A testament to just how well they are doing is that margin has remained constant with last year.
On the shop floor
Grimes is the type of manager who likes to spend time on the shop floor. With 136 staff to manage he needs to be in control of what’s going on and be visible to the customers. He places a huge emphasis on staff training, which has resulted in a low turnover of staff over the years. “Most of our staff are full time so you can train them up and you know there’s a good chance they will stay with you. We have four memebrs of staff here over 20 years; Brian Stanton, Michael Cashman, John O’ Keefe and Eilly O’ Sullivan who is with John nearly 40 years. The management team I have here has been promoted from within apart from one.”
That winning feeling
Stuart Martin, the area manager put Grimes forward for this year’s GRAM awards and he admits that he was thrilled to win. “It’s nice to get some recognition every once in a while. A lot has gone into this place over the years. We’re trading as the busiest Supervalu in the group and have done for a while.”
So what does being a top manager really mean? “Being a good manager means you can’t say no. You come to work in the mornings with a plan but that always goes out the window. If you have ten things to do, you would be lucky to get five or six things done because you need to be able to do what is needed at the time. And you can’t bark at your staff no matter what you are faced with.”
And modestly is obviously another trait Grimes possesses. “I’m lucky because I’ve a good team and those guys take on a lot of responsibility themselves. I’ve had a very good career to date in this store and we’ve won a hell of a lot of awards through the shop. It’s a well-known shop and we’ve been trading in the premiership for a long time.”